Remember when you were just learning how to parallel park? Heck, some of us still struggle to maneuver our car into a parking space even after years of practice. Now imagine parking your vehicle, only now it's completely buoyant, floating on an ever ebbing lake, and there's the added need to hurl a hunk of metal overboard that you strategically drop into the unseen depths below. Yup, that's pontoon boat anchoring for you.
No doubt, anchoring a pontoon boat is both a skill and an art. So if you're hoping to master one of the trickiest techniques in all of pontoon boat ownership, this quick guide on how to properly anchor a pontoon boat should be worth the read.
A Step By Step Guide on Anchoring a Pontoon Boat
One of the reasons why some people struggle so hard to anchor a boat is because they don't fully understand the procedure. There are specific steps you need to follow if you want to pave the way for anchoring success.
Position Your Boat
You can't just drop your anchor anywhere you want, so it's important to scout the area if it's actually 'anchor friendly.' By that we mean, are there any obvious obstructions under the water's surface, like boulders and land formations? If there are, make sure you steer off into a different location since these can damage your boat.
If you've got more than one kind of anchor on board, you might also want to consider the conditions at the bottom of the water, whether they're sandy, rocky, muddy, or anything else. And then finally, there's weather conditions. In general, pontoon boats should point in the direction of strong winds and currents.
Calculate Rode Length
The rode is essentially the cable that connects to the pontoon boats. The length will depend slightly on the conditions of the bed underneath the water, but in general, you can figure this out by way of this simple computation:
The distance between your boat and the depth of water multiplied by 5 or 7, plus the distance between the waterline and the anchor point.
So for example the water is 20 feet deep, you'll need 100 to 140 feet of road plus the distance between your anchor point and the waterline. To be on the safe side, always pack at least 7 times the depth in rope.
Set the Anchor Down
Now that you're in the right position and you've calculated how much rode you need, it's time to drop the anchor. But that doesn't mean you can just toss it overboard and get to fishing. On the contrary, this is actually the part where you have to spend a little extra time especially if you're new to pontoon boats.
Slowly lower the anchor into the water using your winch, if you've got one. The reason why we advise against just throwing it in is because the rode could get tangled up and prevent the anchor from hitting the bottom. It also helps to position your boat slightly ahead of where you want your anchor to fall.
Test the Resistance
After a while, the anchor should reach the bottom. It's absolutely normal for pontoon boats to drift during the process, and if you're facing the right way, you should be drifting backwards. Once you've stopped drifting, pull the anchor to check for resistance. To make sure that you set the anchor properly, you can also place your engine in reverse and slowly move backwards. If there's strong resistance, your anchor is in place.
Check Positions Regularly
The process doesn't end once you drop the anchor off of your pontoon boat. Pontoon boats can drift after being anchored, so it helps to regularly check your position. The best way to do this would be to keep sight of landmarks.
For instance, some pontoon boat owners use trees or dock posts as a reference point versus elements on their boats, like bimini top frames. If you notice that a landmark on the land has moved significantly in relation to a reference point fixture on your boat, you might want to consider re-anchoring.
Hoist It Up
Once it's time to leave, you're going to want to slowly pull on the anchor to get it back up using your winch. Again, it's going to be a slow process, but that's always better than damaging your equipment or your boat.
When retrieving your anchor, you're going to want to hoist it up vertically. If you tug diagonally, the rope could get caught in unseen obstacles, consequently causing damage to your equipment.
What Do You Need to Anchor Properly?
If you're having a hard time trying to anchor your pontoon boat, you might find some comfort in knowing that almost everyone struggles with the process. And that's why manufacturers have developed a sundry of tools and equipment for pontoon boats that might just help make anchoring just that much easier.
A Proper Anchor
This one should be a no-brainer.. Pontoon anchors come in all sorts of designs and styles, each one intended for a different purpose. The most popular ones include:
Ideal for soft, soily bottoms, or those covered in thick vegetation. Also called a river anchor, this pontoon boat anchor design embeds into the muddy or grassy bottom and digs into the terrain for a strong hold.
Designed for sandy or rubble-covered bottoms, these have pointed flukes that snag onto gravel. This allows the fluke anchor to be designed with less weight since they don't need to be too heavy to work the way they do.
Checkout these WindRider Boat Anchor Kits.
These designs have three or four large arms that fan out, making it look like a grappling hook. They're intended for use in waters with rocky bottoms, and they lodge between rocks to resist movement.
The Extreme Max Grapnel Anchor Kit works great.
Also called 'digger', the plow anchor also works in sandy bottoms. The shovel-like appearance digs into earth, dirt, or vegetation to keep your pontoon boat in place.
With the appearance of an upside down mushroom, these river anchors are light weight and work by packing on mud, sand, or gravel into their bowl-shaped head to secure boats in place.
We recommend the Mushroom Anchor Kit by Newport Vessels.
Also called a 'wind lass', the anchor winch lets you regulate the speed at which you release and retrieve your anchor. It helps manage the cable to prevent tangles, and lets you operate your anchor without having to hoist it overboard and pull it out yourself.
The Minn Kota Electric Anchor Winch regulates the speed.
This nifty little ledge connects to the exterior of your pontoon boat and provides a place for both windlass and anchor. If you install an anchor ledge on your boat, you eliminate the need to throw your anchor overboard and hoist it back in your pontoon boat during and after use.
We like this Pontoon Anchor Winch from Extreme Max.
You never know what the open water might bring. So to make sure you're ready for the unexpected, it helps to have some extra length of rope or chain on your pontoon boat. As a general rule, you're going to want to have five to seven times cable length for every foot of water depth you're anticipating to find.
Always handy to have these Nylon Ropes from Give Oceans on hand.
Toss out the guesswork with a depth finder. This nifty device gives you an accurate estimate of the depth of the water you're in. It makes a wonderful addition to your pontoon boat toolbox if you're treading unfamiliar territory.
Try out the Garmin Striker Vivid Fishfinder and Sonar Transducer.
Frequently Asked Questions
1. Where to attach an anchor on a pontoon boat?
If you don't have a windlass fixed on a ledge, then you're going to have to secure the rope end of your anchor to your deck cleats. It helps to brush up on your nautical knot knowledge to make sure you tie it secure and it doesn't loosen off while you're fishing or relaxing. If you have a windlass, position it at the stern instead of the bow to keep it closer to the battery.
2. What to do if pontoon boat is still floating off?
When wind or current is too strong, it's possible that your pontoon might still drift. If you're drifting by a lot, then consider re-anchoring. If it happens all the time, then your anchor might be too light for your boat. Either get a heavier one to prevent your boat from drifting, or consider investing in a secondary side pontoon anchor if one anchor isn't enough.
3. How to anchor a pontoon boat on beach/sandbar?
If you're looking to anchor near the shore, you might need two anchors -- one pontoon anchor for the shallow sand on closer to the beach, and another to keep your boat in deeper water. Position your boat so that the bow faces the beach and deploy one anchor from your stern, and then release the second anchor from your bow once you're stable. Turn off your engine and your pontoon should naturally turn to face away from the shore once both anchors are in place.
4. How heavy of an anchor do I need for my pontoon boat?
There are a lot factors that come into play when it comes to the ideal weight for your anchor such as the type of anchor, wind and wave conditions, and the size of your pontoon boat. The actual weight of the anchor will range from 4 and 40 pounds, but what's really important is the holding power. The bigger your boat, the more holding power your anchor should have.
5. Are there universal anchors?
Unfortunately, no. Different conditions require different anchor designs. So it helps to know what you're up against before you leave the dock so you can be prepared with the right kind to anchor your pontoon.
6. How big of an anchor do you need for a 24 foot boat?
If you're not always in rough conditions and strong winds (which is rare for pontoon boating), then a 15 pound anchor to keep you in place should be more than enough.
Yes, there is a way to anchor a pontoon boat properly, and it takes more than just skill and know-how. It's normal for even the most experienced anglers to wonder how to properly anchor a pontoon boat. And while practice might help you along the way, make sure you've also got the right equipment to anchor your pontoon boat safely and seamlessly.